Australia elections: Rudd concedes defeat to Abbott

On Saturday, some 100 minutes after the polls closed, Rudd mounted the stage in a function room at the Gabba cricket ground in Brisbane to wish his rival well in the "high strain" lifestyle that comes with the leadership.

"A short time again I telephoned Tony Abbott to concede defeat at this national election," he said to cheering supporters. "As prime minister of Australia, I wish him well in the high office of prime minister of this country."

He also announced he will quit as party leader, saying it was time for a change. "I will not be recontesting the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party. The Australian people I believe deserve a fresh start with our leadership."

With 83% of the votes counted, the Australian Electoral Commission showed Abbott's Liberal/National coalition was leading in 88 seats in the House of Representatives, to Labor's 56.

Abbott, a former trainee Catholic priest, boxing enthusiast and monarchist, capitalised on the infighting that saw Rudd oust Julia Gillard as Labor leader in June, three years after she did the same to him.

Best known as a political hard man of the Liberal Party, unafraid of speaking his mind and occasionally tripping up on a gaffe, he has rebuilt his image and ran what was widely seen as a disciplined election campaign. He made a paid parental leave scheme his "signature" policy, while pledging to scrap the carbon tax and make billions of dollars of savings to bring debt down.

"Overall whatever success we are able to gain in this election is due to Tony Abbott's dedication and determination and commitment to hold a government to account and to present a clear alternative of focused, united, competent government," his deputy, Julie Bishop, said Saturday.

Rudd said Labor had "fought the good fight".

"Tonight is the time to unite as the great Australian nation because whatever our politics may be we are all first and foremost Australian and the things that unite us are more powerful than the things that divide us, which is why the world marvels at Australia."

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek admitted Labor had only itself to blame for defeat. "The clear take-out from this definitely is that disunity is death and we are not disciplined enough," she said. "I don't think the division or the pain was justified at any stage."

Former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, who won four successive elections in the 1980s and 1990s, said personality politics had been allowed to overtake the party's message and policies.

"The personal manipulations and pursuits of interest have dominated more than they should and in the process the concentration on values has slipped," he told Sky News. "I really believe this was an election that was lost by the government rather than one that was won by the opposition."

Rudd struggled for traction after toppling Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, in a bitter party room coup just weeks before calling the election. He earlier cast his ballot in a Brisbane church, where he was met by a group of noisy refugee advocates who yelled at him about Labor's mandatory detention of asylum-seekers who arrive by boat.

A relaxed Abbott, 55, running as opposition leader in his second election, said while casting his vote at Freshwater Surf Club in Sydney, where he voted with wife Margie and three adult daughters, that he was ready to assume the leadership.

"Inevitably, all candidates are nervous, but I am confident I am ready and my team is ready," he told reporters.

Rudd, also 55, campaigned on his administration's success in keeping Australia out of a recession during the global financial crisis. He also promised to scrap the carbon tax brought in by Labor after the 2010 election and move to a carbon emissions trading scheme by July 2014.

Other key policies included a plan to introduce a bill in parliament to legalise gay marriage and the adoption of tough measures to halt asylum-seeker boats. – AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Adam Plowright
Adam Plowright works from Paris. Author of The French Exception, the first English-language biography of @EmmanuelMacron. France correspondent for @AFP. Formerly in Delhi, Brussels, London. Adam Plowright has over 5812 followers on Twitter.
Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world